Fighting the Stigma, Increasing Awareness and Education: Advocating for Eating Disorders in Kentucky
Fighting the stigma, increasing awareness and education: Advocating for eating disorders in Kentucky
By Leigh C. Brosof
Fighting stigma, increasing awareness, and educating our communities about eating disorders are essential for early detection and treatment of these disorders; and we know that the earlier we catch an eating disorder, the more likely an individual is likely to recover. In the state of Kentucky, there is no officially recognized awareness efforts or state-sponsored educational programs about eating disorders. That is why today (February 5, 2018), myself, Dr. Levinson, and Melissa Cahill, an eating disorder advocate in Louisville, traveled to Frankfort, KY to meet with our legislators to discuss how we can get the state involved in the fight against eating disorders.
We had meetings with Representative Ken Fleming, who is also the executive director of the Kilgore Counseling Center, and Senator Ernie Harris about sponsoring a resolution in the Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, to officially recognize February 26-March 4th as Eating Disorder Awareness Week in the state of Kentucky.
We also spoke with them about what other states have done to further the cause of supporting eating disorder awareness. In Missouri, the local government created an eating disorder coalition dedicated to awareness and providing education to health providers about treatment standards. In Pennsylvania, the legislature passed a bill requiring all middle and high schools to provide a fact sheet on eating disorder detection and what to do if you think someone has an eating disorder. These efforts show that state support really can make a difference in the fight against eating disorders, and we hope that Kentucky will follow these examples.
Indeed, in addition to meeting with Representative Fleming and Senator Harris about the resolution, we also asked about longer-term plans to get legislation passed in order to increase awareness and education about eating disorders in Kentucky. Both were immensely supportive in helping us understand the steps in order to get such a bill developed. We were briefly introduced to Representative Kimberly Moser and Senator Julie Raque Adams, who both serve on the Health and Welfare Committee, through which the legislation would be drafted.
Our ultimate goal is to see a coalition created similar to the one in Missouri: one that spreads awareness and education, provides training to health care providers in eating disorder care, and establishes treatment recommendation guidelines for best care. In the meantime, we are thrilled to see that our legislators are listening to the need for state support of eating disorders in Kentucky and to recognize Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which will be the first piece of legislation including eating disorders ever passed (hopefully) in the state. We are also excited to continue to advocate for eating disorder awareness in Kentucky.
Overall, it was a fun and encouraging day, and we are grateful to our legislators for taking the time out of their day to meet with us. This was my first experience with formal advocacy work with legislators, and I look forward to continuing to work toward our goals. But it’s also important to remember that advocacy takes many forms, and it doesn’t always take a trip to Frankfort to make a real difference.
Post on social media. Attend a walk. Put posters up around a school or work building. Bring in a speaker or attend a lecture. That’s all it takes to start advocating for eating disorder awareness in our community. Louisville has come such a long way in the short time I’ve been here, and I’m excited to see how we can advocate for a better future for every individual with a diagnosis of an eating disorder.